Bipartisan Colson Task Force May Urge Broader Federal Sentencing Reform


A bipartisan task force Congress created two years ago to examine the federal prison system will soon issue recommendations that could shake up the debate on federal sentencing, reports the Huffington Post. “They aspired to be bold,” said Nancy La Vigne of The Urban Institute, the lead staffer for the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections. The group operated on the principle that public safety was more important than hitting any particular target for cutting the prison population, La Vigne said. Even so, she expects the Colson reform proposals will go further than any legislation now on the table in Congress.

One question is whether anything that goes beyond a Senate compromise already introduced has a chance of passing. (Some advocates have nicknamed that bill Sriracha, catchier than its official title, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act). The two gatekeepers of justice legislation, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and his House counterpart Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), are both reform skeptics. Grassley negotiated Sriracha, and Goodlatte is sponsoring a trimmed-down version of it in the House. Pushing them further will be hard. What’s more, Sriracha boosters fret that there is not much time to act before 2016 election fever takes over, and after that, the momentum for justice reform might unravel. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has previously co-sponsored a proposal to cut drug-related mandatory minimum sentences in half, and he might be willing to go farther than his GOP counterparts.

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